In an age where the LGBTQA+ community is making its mark in the mainstream world, the community should also have films and representation that does them justice. Blush (Barash), an Israeli film directed and written by Michal Vinik, is not that film. Instead of a feel-good film that focuses on the positives within the LGBTQA+ community, the film is a messy mish-mosh of drugs, parties, and shaky “artistic” cinematography (which also includes nudity) that attempts to be edgy. Instead, the infuriating 2015 film throws away its female characters in favor of faux, stereotypical indie-film fodder that proves that just because a film is award-winning, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good.
The story focuses on suburbanite teen Naama (Sivan Noam Shimon), the middle child in a family that’s more focused on the troubles of her older sister, Liora (Bar Ben Vakil), a soldier in the Israeli army who keeps going AWOL. Due to the focus on Liora, Naama’s parents, Gideon (Dvir Benedek) and Michelle (Irit Pashtan), lack awareness of Naama’s drug use and promiscuous lifestyle. When new student Dana (Hadas Jade Sakori), comes into Naama’s orbit, Naama gets swept into a whirlwind of Dana’s hard-partying ways and even dives into harder drugs all while experiencing a sexual awakening.
At the core, Blush is about Naama realizing she may be a lesbian, but this is masked by her constant seeking of approval from her friends and her crush, Dana, and her consistent angst (because it wouldn’t be a teen drama without “relatable,” “no one understands me” yarns) and drug explorations. Similarly, Dana, like Naama, also has drama of her own with an institutionalized mother and an ex-girlfriend who is much older. With Naama in the picture, it appears that Dana and her ex tango around each other by toying with each other’s emotions by using other people, and it’s clear early on that Dana and her ex will get back together by the end of the film, leaving Naama out in the cold to still explore who she really is in a structured world of rules and non-existence due to her own sister’s issues.
Both Naama and Dana are wholly uninteresting as characters despite what other critics say. Naama is by-the-book angsty teen while Dana is the stereotypical rebel girl who is borderline Manic Pixie. Both characters are so ingrained in their tropes that they don’t really grow or change, and this is evident in the end when Naama walks away presumedly to continue to break expectations and find herself while carrying a chip on her shoulder. The thing is, Naama doesn’t find herself. In her pursuit of trying to be edgy, cool, and “different,” Naama just continues to conform to fit in with whom she feels are “her people.” Naama doesn’t have a voice, even as she screams “let her live” to her father regarding allowing her sister to make her own choices. Naama is a parrot that repeats whatever sounds good at the time.
Meanwhile, Dana plays a significant role in Naama’s life, but she is a background character trying to be a secondary lead. Her lines aren’t that meaningful, and she basically serves as eye candy in Naama’s drug-and-hormone-fueled world. She is an action girl who lives fast and hard, a dream-girl representing an assumingly ideal teen life of carefree experiences without rules. Of course, she comes complete with a tragic backstory.
Interspersed with the rather bland romance lies more interesting stories that didn’t get their due. Liora’s story, especially, needs more information and coverage because the family dynamic indicates she’s the golden child in the family. The parents, Gideon and Michelle, stop at nothing to try to find their AWOL daughter. They question the military. They question her friends. Naama is subject to consistent questions. At one point, Liora is also in a prison-setting without a clear explanation for why she’s there (perhaps for deserting the military). What we do know is that Liora has a Palestinian boyfriend, thus kicking off another story that required more depth.
Secondary to Liora’s story, we see that Gideon’s prejudice toward Palestinian people to the point where he refuses to even communicate with them. His search for Liora showcases his deep-seeded hate for them, and it would have been interesting to see from where these prejudices stem. With the secondary storylines, a much more interesting story exists that actually shadow the main storyline. Of course, this is also done by design as the whole story focuses on life in the shadows and the sub-lives people lead in the face of mainstream, every day life.
As with many Indie films, there is content throughout the movie that are supposed to provide deeper, significant meaning to the overall arc (for example, eyes play a large role in some of the ads “hidden” references). The film wants the viewer to think and analyze different nuances, but this, like many other Indie film tropes, is often overdone. Sometimes, a curtain should just be blue without having a deeper meaning.
Blush could have been a decent film if it wasn’t so forced. The side stories had more potential than the main coming-of-age tale, so the film missed the point entirely.
Blush is available on Netflix.
Thank you for this article. My brother, before he passed due to complications from severe depression, was part of the LGBT community and loved all forms of Asian culture because he felt the Otaku and K-Pop fandoms accepted him more than our own community (we’re black Caribbean-Canadian but living in the US). I’m happy to see representation through your coverage of queer media and music videos. It gives me a little hope that my friends and family members in the LGBT community can eventually be accepted. I appreciate you! One day, may we all be united.